Tough day for Whistler skiers in Olympic downhill 

Swiss Defago claims gold; Erik Guay gets past shaky start to place fifth

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Swiss veteran Didier Defago claimed a well-earned gold medal in the men's Olympic downhill Monday.

On a hard, bumpy course far different from the surface the men had their one official training run on last week, Defago took top spot in a tight three-man race for the medals. He crossed the finish line in 1:54.31. Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal was second in a time of 1:54.38. American Bode Miller was third in 1:54.40. The top skiers were separated by less than one tenth of a second.

The Canadians literally put it on the line. Manuel Osborne-Paradis had a few near crashes before losing his momentum at Coaches' Corner, a sharp right-hand turn about two-thirds of the way down the Dave Murray course.

"It's an outdoor sport and there's bumps and conditions change and some stuff was unavoidable," he said. "I hit bumps in certain spots and I've been saying all week that the most critical turn would be Coaches' and that was the one where I pooched it...

"That's what happens, one (bad) turn and you lose the whole race."

Robbie Dixon knows all about that. He had a tough run, hitting a gate panel at one point, then finally going off course and crashing. This was his first race since early January when he sustained a concussion after slipping on snow and he admitted to being a little rusty. The fact that his crash happened on the Dave Murray Downhill, named after one the Crazy Canucks, was not lost on Dixon.

"I was definitely putting some crazy in there," he said. "It didn't work out for the best, but it definitely got a little crazy."

Dixon managed to ski down after his crash, but was slow to get up.

"It's just everything coming into reality after coming to a sudden stop. Just realizing that it's not the finish line, that I'm laying on my side, that my thumb hurts and that's not right. I was okay, but it was just everything, my heart was, just kind of..." he trailed off.

"Everyone wants to finish and finish strong, but I'm happy I put it on the line. I definitely thought I had a pretty good plan, and I was definitely feeling the pressure but I tried to use it in a positive way. Standing at the start and looking around I thought, 'This is my hometown, this is where I grew up and I'm so privileged to be standing at the start representing Canada. It didn't go as well as planned, but it's racing - you have to go for it and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

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